My history education at school started with ancient history…and I sort of got stuck there. Learning about civilizations so remote yet so relevant to our own present was simply the coolest thing to do in my opinion at the time. When that refused to change as I grew up, I pursued an Ancient History BA at UCL, graduating with the Faculty Medal in 2018. My studies alternated between Greece and Rome with the accuracy of a pendulum, eventually settling on Classical Athens as time for my dissertation drew near. I focused on ‘competitive altruism’, a sociological phenomenon wherein wealthy Athenians lavishly performed public services not out of generosity, but as part of an intra-elite competition to be the most altruistic agent, translating symbolic rewards into political influence. Competitive altruism inadvertently precipitated the beginnings of Athenian democracy, as the losing elites in the game aimed to undercut their peers by subordinating individual benefactions to state payments.
During my MPhil at Oxford I aim to develop my grasp of the concepts in and behind history, concepts and theories often drawn from a vast interdisciplinary web. A particular focus is the idea of agency in history: is a particular development caused by an event? A functionalist, unintended byproduct of said event? Larger, longue durée conjunctures unrelated to the actors on the stage? How do subtle, relativist concepts such as social memory, charisma and periodization affect the perception of a historical event? Similarly, I look forward to studying Ancient Greek and Latin to be able to approach sources in their original form.
Whenever I’m not deep into the distant past, I enjoy writing and teaching debate to socioeconomically disadvantaged children. While born Romanian, I have long been settled in Japan, an experience that has made me even more interested in interactions with other cultures and the holistic mindsets developed through such exposure. The Ertegun community offers me a supremely generous opportunity to do just that, furthering both my academic and personal visions. I am excited to be in the company of like-minded scholars blazing their innovative trails all throughout the Humanities. I hope to contribute as much as I can to this community and I am deeply grateful for the support extended by the Scholarship Programme.